Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mission from 'Arry

This is a reference to a non-musical track by Iron Maiden, in which Nicko is secretly recorded fretting about a roadie interrupting him during a performance. In truth, it should be called Mission from Dave, because it was a comment made by Dave Till on his excellent website that sent me off this afternoon on this particular mission. Like Dave, I'm interested in closed roads, exploring them, and trying to imagine what was.

This particular road is Westgate Blvd., which is today closed from the crest of the West Don valley downward. At its base, it meets up with a public works facility (sewage treatment, from the smell), and still exhibits the evidence of another street, Northbourne Street, which was constructed in the mid-20th century, but likely abandoned after Hurricane Hazel passed through Toronto in 1954, putting an end to any future construction in river valleys in the Greater Toronto area ever since. Anyway, shall we begin?


Map of Westgate Blvd., MapArt

I live east of where I was going to be exploring, so I got on the 401 and exited at Avenue Road (see map). I'll always remember the Avenue Road exit. In a blinding snowstorm one day, I left the 401 there in hopes of a better trip home along Sheppard Avenue. But as I tried to picture the intersection of Avenue Road and Sheppard Avenue in my mind, I couldn't. Then I remembered: there isn't one. I ended up having to double back, creep home along Wilson Avenue... what would normally take fifteen minutes too me over two hours. But, as usual, I digress.


Merging onto the 401 westbound

Today, the part of Westgate Blvd. open to traffic ends at the crest of the West Don valley. Beyond that, it's open to bike and pedestrian traffic only. I don't know exactly when they closed it to automobile traffic, but there's really not much down there to drive to anyway, so it might have been some time ago. A manhole cover I happened across bore the datestamp "NYT 1969". It's sobering to think that the last time we know for sure work was done on this road was right around the time Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were setting foot on the moon for the first time. Incidentally, "NYT" refers not to New York in some capacity, but to North York Township, which was what the part of the city in question was called in 1969. North York Township was part of Metropolitan Toronto. Shortly afterwards, it became the City of North York, until it and four other municipalities were folded into the City of Toronto in 1997, and the Metro level of government that united them was eliminated as redundant.


The "official" end of Westgate Blvd. in 2005


Heading down into the West Don valley


If this is a school bus shelter, you've got a long wait, kid


Yeah, nice try; the valley is city property below the crest, dickhead


O Canada


Good nyt, 1969!!

This view with the leaves in the foreground looks back the way I came, after the first curve (see map). It's mostly here because I waited years for a camera that could manage depth of field changes this way instead of being focused on infinity. Sue me; I dig it. :)


Through blurry leaves we see thee rise

This is standing on what was part of Westgate Blvd. and looking at the intersection with Northbourne Street, which heads off into the distance at the upper left of the photograph. Dave Till speculates that it might have once been intended for occupation, but that planning priorities (after Hurricane Hazel) made that impossible, so the road was abandoned. It doesn't appear on the map above, but the course of it basically follows the west border of the Metro Works facility in the centre. It ambles on as a gravel road for about a quarter of a mile, then ends at a creek bed, where I found a rather abused picnic table. Beyond that, a path leads further along the creek. The way is lined in slippery clay, for which I abandoned my sandals (a benefit on gravel, but a detriment on slippery surfaces). Another two minutes of walking brings you to the end of the path, which heads up the sharp face of the valley again. Along the way down Northbourne and back, I took some of the shots I liked best. A couple that look like pictures from some calendar of New England scenes, and several of a bee doing its thing on a flower, with the depth of field extremely narrow. This is the kind of shot that, ultimately, I bought the Rebel XT for. I was less than a foot from the bee when I took the shot, and probably not three feet from the leaves behind it, which are in magnificent soft focus, while the bee and flower are sharp. I love it!


First glimpse of Northbourne Street


Heading west along Northbourne (why not Westbourne then?)


Calendar shot #1


The artsy shot for today


Well, so much for the picnic


Ten foot drop with leaves outstanding


Intrepid rugged barefoot hiker picture #721! :)


End of the line for the Northbourne trail


What is that thing, anyway?


A wounded tree remembers you always, Jeff


Calendar shot #2

After I got back to Westgate Blvd., I continued down along its course. After just a few moments, I encountered the first of what turned out to be a series of bizarre scuptures rendered from debris. One, made entirely of wood and plants, looked like the skeleton of some strange horselike being from remote prehistory...


What manner of beast am I?



The next reminded me of someone's short, fat uncle, growing out of his easychair while he watches football game after hockey game after baseball game. In memory of an ongoing highschool in-joke, I've called the sculpture (for my own purposes, since I don't know the real title), Tribute to Uncle Bill.


Tribute to Uncle Bill



I don't know what this next one is all about at all. It looks to me like the rendering of some toaster that's been canonized by the Catholic Church or something. "All I said was, 'That piece of toast was good enough for Jehovah!'"


The Martyring of St. Toaster

This next one looks to me like a robot gas station attendant, doing double duty as the pump.


Check the oil, sir?

What can I say? I look at this one, I think: Romanian Olympic Figure Skating Champion.


Romanian figure skating champion

This last one, assuming it's part of the same collection, simply looks to me like a chair. If you were some animal who took himself to be King of the Forest, you might have a throne like this made for yourself, it seems to me.


Throne of the Forest King

As with the flood plain around Old Cummer bridge, there's evidence of the flooding from the big storm in mid-August down in this park, too.


Evidence of flood damage from August

The road itself seems to end at the Metro Works property. However, a path leads off through the property heading north. According to the maps, this path will eventually take you to Sheppard Avenue. I love this shot... it reminds me of places I used to haunt as a kid. The only downside is that damned trash basket at centre right.


Garbage can ruins shot, film at 11

This is a dove, I think. Surprisingly calm. Kept an eye on me, but let me get within about fifteen feet of it without getting spooked. Whenever I see a dove -- that is, a pigeon that isn't that usual combination of blue-greys that mark it as the sort of city dweller you just know is due to be flattened by a bus sooner or later, I immediately think I'm looking at one of the last passenger pigeons... just that someone missed one or two. I guess if that were true we'd have spotted a few by now.


It's the last passenger pigeon!

I don't know what the hell this is supposed to be. If I were in a malicious mood, I might suggest that the raccoons had taken a stab at building a wigwam, and this was the best they could manage.


World's Worst Wigwam

The open plain and wooded hills surrounding it on the other side of the fence reminded me of nothing so much as either Wentworth Valley in Nova Scotia where we used to camp when I was very, very young, or else the open brush between my home and the first school I went to in Hamilton (land that is now part of an expressway). Either way, it filled me with warm nostalgic feelings. This place was utterly alive with butterflies; little white ones... hundreds of them.




Kingdom of the butterflies




And it feels now just like Heaven comin' down...



Heading down into the woods at the other end of the cleaning, the path splits in two at what seems to be the aeration stream of the sewage treatment plant. On the fence is this warning. More in sympathy than in mirth it occurred to me that the more appropriate city administration sticker for this sign would be "New Orleans", rather than "Toronto".



Looking off to the right from the warning sign, one sees the bridge over the stream. The far side of the bridge represents the far point of my journey; it's where I decided to head back.



Just before crossing the bridge, I saw this rather remarkable sign. Here's something you never expected to see east of Arizona, huh? But coyotes, unlike most other animals besides raccoons and oppossums, have done fantastically well during the European colonization and subsequent urbanization of North America. When I was a teenager in Mississauga, coyotes already had a reputation for eating small dogs in vicinity of Lake Wabuakyne in Meadowvale.


Beep beep!

Far side of the bridge. I almost missed this. I know who this is... I've seen his face before. Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords... But I can't recall exactly who this dopey-looking character is supposed to be. But it struck me funny... it's like Canada's version of Traitor's Gate. Naturally, it would be small, understated, and out of the way, wouldn't it? "Behold the head of a traitor!"


Enemy of the state?

And here we are all the way back along the trails, up the hill, and back on the still-open, surrounded-by-houses part of Westgate Blvd. The manhole cover says 1959, though these streets appear on maps predating that period.


End of the line, 1959

Heading back, this is a view looking northward from the 401 offramp at Leslie Street. You can see the elevated overpass of the 401, and North York General Hospital beyond it. The next shot is taken from just the other side of the 401, just north of it, and just across from the hospital. The sign offers you the way back to the site of our little expedition. Well, you go ahead. For me... it's Miller Time! So to speak. :)


Exiting the 401 at Leslie Street


But if you change your mind...

12 comments:

Lone Primate said...

Apologies to Kat -- I realized after the fact that I deleted several of her comments, because I post the photos so I can paste the HTML into the body of the text, and then delete the photo postings. Kat actually caught me in mid-stream, and commented on photo postings that I deleted once I had the full thread constructed. Apologies, Kat! :(

Does anyone know a way to post text and photos at the same time?

Lone Primate said...

Luckily, I have the e-mail of Kat's comments, so I will requote them here, and respond where appropriate. :)

So, earlier today ... I commented on an old post of yours (early July I think). Had a photo of a crushed box in the grass & your foot. Anyway, in that comment I proposed that you create an occasional foot photo series. Posts that visually record where your feet have been. ; ) If you don't want to do it ... I might. Anyway, it could end up a really quirky kind of fun photo series.

My whole blog is that kind of thing, at least when I'm out wandering in good weather. Enjoying the texture of the setting under my feet without anything between it and me is something I enjoy, but it's about the whole journey... should be incidental, not integral, to quote Ruth Gordon's Maude from Harold and Maude. ;)

: ) Look, the O has a smiley face in it.

(This is a reference to the sign warning of rising storm waters.) Yes, and actually, so did a tree I photographed. Someone spraypainted a smiley on it. I considered adding it in conjunction with the sign, but given that I already had 40-some photos earmarked, that just seemed too frivilous for the work involved. :)

Where are the butterflies?

It was the damnedest thing; every time I raised the camera, they'd dive into the grass, disappear into the bushes, get waved into safe houses by Keebler™ elves... Actually, the thing is, they were very small, many metres away, and unfortunately just don't show up.

Beep, beep ... LOL! Good one.

Who would feed coyotes?! Are these tame coyotes? I'm just wondering why there's a need for this sign. If you saw a coyote wouldn't you go the other way?


Thanks. :) Nope, they're wild. Hundreds, maybe thousands of coyotes live in the GTA because settlement development in the river valleys has been banned since the mid-1950s after Hurricane Hazel pounded the city, including the famous tragedy of the homes ripped away on Raymore Drive. But anyway, for 50 years, the valleys have been largely untouched, and coyotes have moved into the urban environment here and elsewhere across the continent. Elsewhere in the blog, I mention being down in the East Don valley with a friend at midnight, skinnydipping and photographing the full moon. While we were there, we heard a coyote yipping well within a quarter mile of us.

So many photos, so little time! Looks like you had some good, quality time with the camera today.

I'm glad I invested in it. I have to admit, I feel a step up when people catch me photographing something weird (like those goofy statues) with an SLR camera instead of my old P&S models... I look serious: okay, he's an eccentric photography buff instead of okay, he's an eccentric cheapskate wanna-be. :)

katherine said...

Kat actually caught me in mid-stream, and commented on photo postings that I deleted once I had the full thread constructed. Apologies, Kat! :(

Not a problem. : ) It's your blog. Plus, I knew I was interrupting (sort of). I just didn't know how your workflow operated. ; )

Does anyone know a way to post text and photos at the same time?

Yep, though I think the posting page may look different for different users. Depending on their OS and internet application. For me it works like this: Bring up a new post, Click on the photo icon. 1)Then choose file 2) Add another item (up to five) 3)choose where you want them positioned 4)then Upload them. Back at the main post now ... click on the photo icon again, and repeat steps 1-4 until you've uploaded all the photos.

At this point you are free to rearrange the photos at your will. Put them in whatever order you want and type captions as well as the main body of the text (or in your case mostly) prose.

Hope this helps. Might make the process flow a bit better for you.

katherine said...

It was the damnedest thing; every time I raised the camera, they'd dive into the grass, disappear into the bushes, get waved into safe houses by Keebler™ elves... Actually, the thing is, they were very small, many metres away, and unfortunately just don't show up.

Gotta get closer. Bet those elves would see you're trustworthy if they had a chance to get to know you. ; )

I'm glad I invested in it. I have to admit, I feel a step up when people catch me photographing something weird (like those goofy statues) with an SLR camera instead of my old P&S models... I look serious: okay, he's an eccentric photography buff instead of okay, he's an eccentric cheapskate wanna-be. :)

I know the feeling. I still feel it, sometimes. For me, it's usually when I'm at an assignment and some well-known, award-winning photojournalist is there too. Silly path that I've somehow worn into my brain. I literally have to force myself to ignore their presence.

Lone Primate said...

Bring up a new post, Click on the photo icon. 1)Then choose file 2) Add another item (up to five) 3)choose where you want them positioned 4)then Upload them. Back at the main post now ... click on the photo icon again, and repeat steps 1-4 until you've uploaded all the photos.

Well, I'll be damned. Kat, I'm in your debt. Would you believe I'm a tech writer when I'm not saving busloads of seniors, kittens from space mutants, and photojournalist from not wandering the world in their bare feet? If you didn't have a real career, you'd have a future in the craft. :)

I know the feeling. I still feel it, sometimes. For me, it's usually when I'm at an assignment and some well-known, award-winning photojournalist is there too.

I understand what you mean. I hope I don't seem to be disregarding what you're saying when I tell you I wish I had the skills and the courage to do what you do. I'd love to be the sort of person who could be a photojournalist... outgoing, bold, artistic, telling the world things it would otherwise overlook. You can tell; that's why I blog. But you blog with a capital B. Nevermind the bigshots. You're there. :)

I know you have a P&S for what's going on right around you (as you know, so do I). But I'd love to know what a professional like you is really using. Tell me... I need to drool. :) Some sort of a Nikon? A Canon or Kodak-back I couldn't afford unless I sold my car? :)

Lone Primate said...

Bet those elves would see you're trustworthy if they had a chance to get to know you. ; )

Sorry, you'll never get me in those bell-toed shoes. I gotta be me. :)

James said...

I'll have to go exploring the valley and see if I can find that coyote sign. Too bad you don't have a GPS so you can post the route you took. ;)

Lone Primate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lone Primate said...

I'll have to go exploring the valley and see if I can find that coyote sign. Too bad you don't have a GPS so you can post the route you took. ;)

Follow the map for the route down Westgate, TZ... when you come to the end of that, follow the path to the left past the garbage can, through the open field. When you get to the woods, you'll come to a T junction at the river, where the chainlink fence is. Turn right, and you'll see the bridge right off the bat. On the left hand side just before you cross that bridge is the "Do not feed the coyotes" sign. It's about a twenty minute walk from the traffic surface to that sign. But I promise you, it's in no way difficult to find.

katherine said...

Well, I'll be damned. Kat, I'm in your debt. Would you believe I'm a tech writer when I'm not saving busloads of seniors, kittens from space mutants, and photojournalist from not wandering the world in their bare feet? If you didn't have a real career, you'd have a future in the craft. :)

: ) Glad I could help. I am curious about tech writing though ... is that short for technical writing? or ?? I ask because I know someone who might like to get into that field. Any tips, advice or warnings I could pass along?

I wish I had the skills and the courage to do what you do. I'd love to be the sort of person who could be a photojournalist... outgoing, bold, artistic, telling the world things it would otherwise overlook. You can tell; that's why I blog. But you blog with a capital B. Nevermind the bigshots. You're there. :)

You've said this before that you "aren't the sort of person who could be a photojournalist". But you are a photojournalist. Maybe not professionally, but you certainly record a lot visually. AND you publish them in your blog for others to see and learn from. Which is "telling the world things it would otherwise overlook". So, from where I sit that makes you a photojournalist.

Before now, I would have never (in a million years) characterized myself the way you just did. Though after seeing through your definition, I guess I'm most of those things to some extent. Thanks for the compliment ... and for being a catalyst for a new thoughts in my mind. You have a way of doing that. : ) Oh, and thanks for the confidence booster there at the end too. : )

But I'd love to know what a professional like you is really using. Tell me... I need to drool. :) Some sort of a Nikon? A Canon or Kodak-back I couldn't afford unless I sold my car? :)

I shoot with a Canon 1D Mark II & a Canon 20D (the former belongs to the company I work for, the latter is my personal camera). As for lenses ... I've pared my gear down tremendously in the past couple of years (to save my back). So, I generally carry only a couple of lenses: a 16-35/2.8 & a 70-200/2.8 -- plus a 1.4 extender. I do have a few other lenses, but I find those two cover most everything I need for any given assignment. And yes, the gear is expensive ... but it lasts and needs to for all we put it through.

Lone Primate said...

Glad I could help. I am curious about tech writing though ... is that short for technical writing?

Yup! :)

Any tips, advice or warnings I could pass along?

The best leg-up is to get hold of a copy of FrameMaker and get familiar with it. Most companies who treat manuals seriously used that instead of Word, which tends to corrupt documents beyond a certain size, and still does weird things with ordred lists. Adobe makes FrameMaker.

Tell your friend to use Frame to document something s/he knows how to do well and likes to do, so it's less of a chore. All a potential employer wants to see is the documentation skills. The actual subject matter is less important.

I shoot with a Canon 1D Mark II & a Canon 20D... I generally carry only a couple of lenses: a 16-35/2.8 & a 70-200/2.8 -- plus a 1.4 extender.

Wow, geez... high-end stuff alright. I knew it would be mind-blowing. So jealous. :) Well, I shouldn't be. I might as well envy someone a Formula 1 racer. Yeah, great to have, but I'm hardly equal to the vehicle. It ought to be in the hands of someone who knows what to do with it. :)

katherine said...

Tell your friend to use Frame to document something s/he knows how to do well and likes to do, so it's less of a chore. All a potential employer wants to see is the documentation skills. The actual subject matter is less important.


Thanks. I'll pass it along.

Wow, geez... high-end stuff alright. I knew it would be mind-blowing. So jealous. :) Well, I shouldn't be. I might as well envy someone a Formula 1 racer. Yeah, great to have, but I'm hardly equal to the vehicle. It ought to be in the hands of someone who knows what to do with it. :)

I used to feel the same way. I hope you won't always feel that way about camera gear.

Learning how to use a camera at all intimidated me for years. In 1989 I was in a pj class in college (for the first attempt at a degree), shooting with guys that are now pulitzer prize winners ... and I didn't even know the difference between fstop and shutter speed. What's ISO mean? Seriously, I got a C in that class and I think that was being gracious. The professor could see I was trying, but I was clueless.

Even after that, I still didn't have a real clue. My life back then, geez. [rolling my eyes] It was 1994 before I really started getting a handle on the technical skills. Until then, I just winged it. (Fake it until you make it was my inadvertent motto.) Also scared someone would find me out, "she doesn't really know how to use the gear, she's just faking!"

But I think back and wonder, if I hadn't been so clueless I probably wouldn't have ever even tried ... where would I be now? That scares me.

All I know is that I had a drive to shoot photos. I didn't know anything about photography or photojournalism or any kind of photography for that matter. Only that I wanted to shoot photos.

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming...